The man with the kaleidoscope eyes has starred in some of the most celebrated works to ever be committed to celluloid. From Reservoir Dogs and Fargo to Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos, Steve Buscemi has forged an impressive award winning film and television career by injecting a quiet sense of gravitas to roles as eclectic as they are memorable. His latest is as a goofy magician sidekick in Don Scardino comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, co-starring Steve Carell, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey and James Gandolfini. We recently caught up with the Emmy nominated actor, writer and director to discuss the creative benefits of period costuming, what makes Steve Carell so funny and working with David Copperfield.
Steve, why do magicians become magicians? Why does anybody go into this business? There’s something that brings us joy in entertaining people. Be it an actor or a writer or a magician, there’s magic in all of it.
Do you as an actor have a bag of tricks like a magician does? I don’t know if I have a bag of tricks that I’m conscious of, but I’m sure that I have things that I fall back on or habits that I hopefully when I work with a good director they can break me of those habits and keep things fresh.
Continuing with the analogy between the two industries, would you say Las Vegas is a little more brutal than Hollywood or the other way around? I think this is a pretty competitive town here, Las Vegas. Hollywood is pretty competitive as well. But I think it takes a lot to make it in this town. There’s a lot of good talent here.
Your roots are in independent film and now you make both huge movies and small movies. You can do pretty much everything. Did you have to change anything to be able to do that? No. For me, whatever film I work on, if it’s an independent or if it’s television or a commercial film, the work that I put into it is the same. I try and work with people who care about what they’re doing and who are in it because we want to make something good. So in that way, it’s the same.
Your character Anton and Steve Carell’s character Burt have some synchronicity happening in front of the camera. How did you get there? You move together, is that all rehearsed or did you just fall into it? It just I think sort of happened naturally. We hit it off but I’ve really followed his lead a lot and we just had fun with it. Don Scardino created an atmosphere where we can try things and I think that’s really important when you’re making a film like this. Steve and I just generally liked each other and liked playing off each other.
There’s something about Steve Carell, you just look at his face and you’re ready for the comedy. What is it do you think? Can you identify what makes him such an intrinsic comedian? I think he’s a really good actor. I think he has great timing, great comic timing. But I also think he really cares about what goes into creating a character. So it’s not just about the jokes. It’s about ‘who is this guy?’
Do the costumes from the 70’s and 80’s, do they help you get into character? Once we were in the wardrobe, and the wigs and the makeup you can’t help but feel you know like you want to do something big, or showy.
Steve, if you were an actor what do you think you would be doing now? Well I used to move furniture. I was a firefighter at one point, and maybe I’d still be doing that.
Do you take a lot of control of your own career in terms of projects and developing things? Sometimes with developing things. But also, it’s always my decision whatever I get involved in. So the responsibility is mine.
In this movie what would you say was the biggest challenge for you? I think the most challenging thing was learning the illusion that David Copperfield taught us in the film. The hangman’s illusion, because that was done in one continuous take and we really had to know our stuff. We really had to practice and get the details right because if one detail wouldn’t work, the audience would see right through it; and you had to make it look easy. Hopefully we were successful in doing that but it was a challenge. It was really fun and we were really proud of ourselves once we got it.
Did you get any pointers from David Copperfield besides that one scene? Well yeah, just hanging around him and seeing what he’s about and seeing his show and seeing how funny he is; how he brings humor into everything that he does. He was a real inspiration.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is available now to own on DVD $39.95, Blu-rayTM $44.95 and Digital Download.